Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Hong Kong wealth gap widens amid tycoon scandals

Reuters, HONG KONG

Hong Kong’s wealth gap has widened over the past few years amid surging real-estate prices and as the city’s outgoing leader grapples with a tide of public resentment over a spate of scandals involving top officials and billionaire tycoons.

Around a tenth of families in the territory of 7 million people live in relative poverty, Oxfam said. The wealth gap stands now among the widest of any developed Asian economy.

The Gini coefficient for all households in Hong Kong was 0.537 last year, up from 0.533 in 2006, in the latest five-year figure for income disparity released yesterday.

Some groups have blamed the failure of outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) to provide greater support for the underprivileged and for housing policies that have coddled the territory’s powerful property tycoons.

A major corruption probe into a top former official and the billionaire Kwok brothers who run property developer Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd (新鴻基地產), along with lavish overseas duty trips by Tsang, have not helped perceptions of overly cozy government-business ties.

The government said it had addressed poverty alleviation, including enacting a minimum wage last year, and stressed an adjusted Gini coefficient figure taking into account taxes and social benefits, had in fact remained unchanged since 2006.

Hong Kong’s incoming leader, the Beijing-backed Leung Chun-ying (梁振英), has pledged to accelerate public housing development from the current 15,000 units a year and said he plans to revive an anti-poverty commission that was dismantled in 2007.

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